Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Forsythia Are Lovely This Year

Can I distract you with that statement from the fact that I haven’t posted in two weeks? Or, perhaps you hadn’t noticed.

Yesterday was an exciting day mostly because I was a guest artist on a fellow Equine Art Guild member’s blog. Linda Shantz paints mostly Thoroughbreds and has plenty of her subjects to choose from right in her own backyard. This month she’s doing a painting a day which is something I haven’t had the courage to tackle yet. Her blog posts are always entertaining because Linda is a good writer as well as a gifted artist with a great sense of humor. Please check out her blog for today’s painting and my guest spot from yesterday.

My only regret is that I was so sick with an intestinal bug when I wrote my guest blog post that it came out less entertaining and engaging than I would have liked. It discusses all the changes I made from the reference photograph while creating The Green Team painting.

The other exciting part of yesterday was that I made some really good progress on revising my website. To make a long story short, I had revised some pages and “galleries” over the past year or so but not others. The result was that there was no uniform “look” to the pages, lots of broken links or links to pages which contained duplicate content. These are all things which Google frowns upon and could explain why my website visitors have been dwindling for the past year.

The time had come to tackle the whole website and give it a new, fresher brighter look, and yesterday the last of the major web pages was revised. I have only the image pages to do yet, and they should be easy compared to the rest. In the process, I’ve deleted a lot of pages and quite a few of the images to help streamline the site and show only my best work. I would love it if you could take a look and let me know how you like the new design, navigation and arrangement.

Now, as for the forsythia, it IS lovely this year! After several days of gray, rainy weather, the sun came out this morning, so I took a tour of the flower beds and took the photo above of my oldest forsythia. It’s the one the deer keep pruning into a mishapen mess despite my best efforts to protect it.

As luck would have it, just after I snapped this photo, my camera announced that the CF card was full. I was standing under the Burning Bush, and a chickadee alighted just inches from my face. I mean INCHES! He was not the least afraid, and I had no way to take his picture! Of course, by the time I went back out with another card in the camera, he was gone.

It’s clearly time to burn those photos to backup and empty those cards because I don’t want a repeat of that experience the next time I have camera at hand.

As soon as I get this website revision finished, I’ll be back in the studio and out in the yard. Next up will be a dressage drawing and a pony painting that’s been lingering around for years.

See you next time, and thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

And, That's A Wrap!

What a whirlwind of a day I had today!

Not to bore you with a long list of what I accomplished, let me simply say that I wrapped up and mailed off an assortment of business and personal tax forms, got money transferred to pay the taxes, created and mailed my entry for the AAEA Mackinac Island show, made arrangements for an ad in Horses In Art magazine and last but far from least, I finished the Belgian draft horse painting. Whew! I never expected to accomplish so many important and stressful tasks in one day.

As they say in the movie industry, "That's a wrap". Now, on to new art and long neglected projects.

I think I’ll just leave it at that for tonight. Thanks for visiting, and please come visit again. Bring a friend if you care to!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Don't Count Yer Chickens!!

You know that old saying about not counting your chickens before they hatch? Well, I pretty much ignored that sage advice when I more or less committed myself to entering this painting in a juried show and to using it in an ad in Horses In Art magazine. As you know, the painting is far from finished, and both deadlines are coming up this week! Now my chickens have come home to roost!

Friday was more or less a bad studio day. After painting the lower part of the trailer, I painted the neck and shoulder of the left hand horse. When I finished painting that evening, I realized that:

1. The paint was not going on smoothly despite having oiled the canvas ahead of time.

2. The highlights and shadows were not in the right places, consequently the bones and muscles were not in the right places.

3. The highlights had gone dull and the whole horse image had gone flat, showing little volume.

Making 3-d images believable on a 2-d surface is all about creating volume in your subject. Well, this poor horse had none and would have to be repainted. That night I figured that there was no way I could possibly get the painting done enough to send off the entry by Tuesday at the latest. Actually, it was kind of a relief because that left the beautiful weekend free for doing some much-needed yard work.

But, by yesterday morning I was feeling very disappointed at the prospect of missing a second invitation to an AAEA member show and felt as if I was letting the Academy down and setting a bad precedent in their minds. So, after lunch I sat down in front of the painting to study it and determine what needed to be done and if it would be possible to work on it that day.

The first consideration was whether or not the paint was dry enough to paint over, and it was. It occured to me then that the reason I’d had trouble laying down paint the day before might have been because I was trying to use up leftover mixes of paint from the previous day which had probably begun to dry and had become somewhat sticky. Fresh paint would solve that problem.

Secondly, I studied the painting and my reference photos and saw some places where I’d gone wrong in laying in the muscle masses and the scapula.

Thirdly, when I flipped on the easel light, a light bulb went off in my head as well. The highlights on the horse were much brighter under the light than they were when the light was turned off. Since paintings are rarely hung with lights directly on them, I would need to compensate.

After getting out a fresh palette and mixing up fresh paint, I began to make corrections to the horse. The paint went on smoothly and didn’t lift the layer underneath, so I kept going until the neck and shoulder were done to my satisfaction. After dinner, I began painting the head and got as far as the nose band of the halter before quitting for the day.

While I was painting, I thought I was getting this ole work horse show ring shiny, but this morning he is looking dull again. Clearly, more adjustments need to be made, but those can be done when he is dry in another day or two. I’ll just add some bright highlights in a few places and he should come alive again.

The first image above shows the BC view (before corrections), the second is after corrections were made.

I don’t think I’ve said this before, so let me mind my manners and thank each one of you for visiting my blog. I hope that you’ve found it informative and entertaining and will come back again for another visit. Please feel free to leave comments, especially to let me know whether or not you enjoy this blog. I’m always open to constructive feedback.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Quite A Scare!

The night before my mother died, I got a cell phone call from my horse’s caretaker letting me know that he was colicking. Talk about stress! There I was 250 miles away, and suddenly faced with the very real prospect of losing both my mother and my horse within 24 hours. I was already worried that the doctors wouldn’t be able to keep my mother alive long enough for my sisters to arrive the next morning and worried that neither would be able to come at all due to snow storms in their respective home areas. That was on top of the certain fact that I was about to lose my mother.

For the next 4-5 hours I was kept in suspense until the call came that Scottie’s gas colic had resolved and he was recovering after a visit from the vet. Still, I worried until the next morning when a second call came to report that he was just fine but would be watched closely for a day or two. Shortly thereafter, my two sisters arrived at the hospital, and we gathered around my mother’s bed to say our goodbyes.

So, when I arrived at the barn yesterday to deliver the board check and found that Scottie was not with the other horses in the arena and was nowhere it sight, a feeling of dread and deja vue swept over me. There I was in street clothes; no boots and no knee brace. Fortunately, it was cold enough that the ground was only semi-soft and not mud, so off I went into the turn out, calling Scottie’s name. No response. I checked both of the run in sheds, but no Scottie. Now I was REALLY worried and anticipated finding his prostrate body lying somewhere in one of the pastures. Since the gate to the pastures was open, I went a little further and looked into the distance. There was Scottie happily munching on the leftovers of breakfast in the second pasture. This time when I called his name, he looked up and then went back to eating. I felt a wave of tremendous relief, and since he seemed to be just fine, I didn’t bother to risk wrenching my bad knee to go visit with him.

After heading home, I worked on the Belgian team painting a little more and repainted the railings on the trailer to make some corrections. I’ve also repainted the vertical supports. Today’s image is a close up of this area, and you can see that the horses are still in a rough stage, with pencil marks still visible.

In today’s painting session, I’m trying to decide whether to finish painting the rest of the trailer first or whether to start painting the left hand horse. I don’t want to waste the big gob of blue paint left over from yesterday, but if I paint the trailer first, I risk smearing that wet paint as I work on the horse. It probably makes the most sense to keep the momentum going and paint the trailer side and take my chances with wet paint. Since I’m on a tight deadline now, I don’t have time to wait for paint to dry before tackling the horse.

Today’s first photo is a close up of the painting showing yesterday’s progress where I evened out the widths of the corrugations. I’m quite happy with the way it turned out although the bottom rail still needs to be straightened.

The second photo shows our beach full of ice bergs as the lake ice broke up on Monday. Yesterday the ice was all gone, and we had snow flurries all day. But today is sunny, and three swans glided by this morning, enjoying the new open water and expanded feeding grounds. It won’t be long before some brave water skier in a wet suit skims the waves to be the first of another summer season of lake activities.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Phantom Blog Award

About six weeks ago there was a flurry of blog awards being passed out amongst a group of bloggers that I read regularly. Some lucky bloggers received two or three awards while I received none. I have to admit that I was pretty bummed about this and grumbled to myself about how such things were nothing more than popularity contests between friends and SO middle schoolish. I was definitely indulging in some sour grapes.

So, when I received a comment on my blog last weekend that I’d been given a blog award, I couldn’t help but feel a bit elated and redeemed. The award was given by someone I don’t know, but she failed to attach the actual award image. Having never received one before, I didn’t know what the protocol is and whether or not I had to name the seven things about myself first or what. I managed to track her down on the internet and politely sent her an email to enquire whether it was an oversight on her part that I hadn’t received the award image or if there was something I was supposed to do first.

It’s been a week now, and I never heard back from her. Now I have to assume that this was some kind of cruel hoax or perhaps she had notified the wrong artist and was too embarrassed to admit it. I’ve removed her comment from my blog to protect the innocent (or is that the guilty?) and am putting the whole incident behind me.

Something positive did come out of this whole blog award thing, though. It made me stop to think about why my blog is not more popular, and I realized that I’ve posted a lot of negative, woe-is-me thoughts over the past two years. Instead of posting new artwork, I’ve posted a lot of why-I-haven’t-done-any-artwork posts. I resolved immediately to make my posts more upbeat and try to inject some humor into them. That’s a tall order for someone whose sense of humor tends to be quite dry, but I’ll do my best from now on.

Today’s photo is a view from my studio window. It shows the ice in the lake receding as the wind-blown waves chip away at its edges and as the sun has melted its thickness. This can be an anxious time for us lake dwellers for a day or two when we worry whether or not the ice is going to demolish docks and boat houses as the wind drives it relentlessly eastward. So far we’ve been lucky, but I did watch helplessly one year as the ice wiped out our neighbors dock and boat house supports. It was a good lesson in the powers of Nature.

Normally, as soon as the ice goes out of the lake, the ducks and swans appear in our beach and the fishermen return in their boats. I’m already seeing large flocks of flight ducks making their way back toward Canada. Perhaps a crane will stop by one of these days, too. They are so shy that I haven’t managed to get a good photo of one yet, and they only visit for a day or two each season. But, I keep hoping that THIS season will bring better luck.

There is no sun today because we’re expecting yet another winter storm tonight and tomorrow. Will THIS be the last gasps of the winter of 2008-2009, or does Mother Nature have more surprises in store for us? Don’t put away those snow shovels just yet!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Sentimental Journey

Since the hospitalization and death of my mother early last month, I’ve been on a real sentimental journey. Going through her photos, address books, and precious mementos has brought back many memories long buried to add to those which have surfaced naturally as I think back on my relationship with my mother and what in her own life molded her into the person that she was.

So, when this little clay sculpture turned up in my dresser drawer this week, it took me back again to one summer when I was fifteen. A friend and I took a summer art class for high school students at Eastern Michigan University, and this 4 inch high sculpture was the result. It’s a shame that the ears were lost long ago which makes him look a bit odd.

What’s remarkable about it is how good it is for my young age and how it shows that I already had a firm grasp of the anatomy of the equine head. It isn’t perfect but it’s good, and that’s why I kept it for over 50 years. I’ve even put in that facial vein that is so prominent on the face of just about every horse. I didn’t grow up around horses nor was I involved with them much at the time. But, I had already developed a keen eye for observing details and form that has contributed greatly to my development and success as an artist over the years.

If you want to be a realist artist, learning to see the details in your subject and then combining them into a cohesive form are essential.

I’m grateful to my parents for giving me the opportunity to take this summer class, for paying for riding lessons and horse day camps and for allowing me to have my first horse. If it weren’t for these gifts, my life might have taken a different path.

If you want to read about my journey as an artist from childhood on, visit my biography page, and from there you will find a link to more of my early art. I promise that you’ll find it entertaining.